I must apologize to any of those readers from countries other than the United States. This blog in particular may be difficult to connect with your own experiences. It will, however, provide you with an insider’s view of our culture…thin sliced.
I grew up during the earliest stages of television as a communication media and, like television itself, couldn’t really tell the difference between good TV and bad TV in the beginning.(Apparently, TV execs still can’t tell the difference, but I sure have learned how to) All TV was interesting, i.e. good, because it was TV. Anything was better than chores, homework or listening to your parents.
One successful program format from the very start was the ‘game show’. Ordinary people competed for prizes under a variety of rules and conditions. Most of the formats involved contests like solving a simple riddle, naming a song, filling in a blank to complete a sentence or form a word and so on. There was usually a buzzer or bell of some sort and the object was for the contestant to be the first to buzz (or ring) with the correct answer.
This format was not unlike the classrooms I was being taught in. There were many times when the teacher(s) would ask a question addressed to the class as a whole and the ones who thought they knew the answer would shoot their arms straight up (first if possible). Being the first to raise your hand didn’t guarantee that you would be called on to answer (unfair, I know) but it did always count for something. You could see it in the teacher’s eyes.
So, as a result of my classroom conditioning and TV viewing, I developed what I refer to as my buzzer brain. Here’s what that meant to me internally: whenever the situation in front of me posed a question or needed to be figured out, my brain went into game show mode. I wanted to be the first to answer, the quickest to figure out what was actually happening and to hit that imaginary buzzer. I honestly (but unspokenly) felt that there would be a prize or reward of some sort for being so good at this game called life. If nothing else, I would be declared a winner after all the points I had racked up. And being a winner, in America, was always the goal. The point. At least that’s what I was told.
So, mentally, my life became a trivial pursuit.
I hoarded tons of useless information in the same way as my Depression Era grandparents hoarded scraps of wood, loose screws, random nails, nuts/bolts/washers, pieces of tin foil, burnt out light bulbs, broken toilet seats and so on and so on… Their rationale was a refrain: “You never know when it might come in handy”.
That became my first mantra. (long before I knew what a mantra was)
This buzzer brain, this game show mentally, would have fizzled out on its own eventually, except that I seemed to have an aptitude for it. In other words, not all of my answers were wrong. In fact, the percentages of my correct answers were sufficient that I was encouraged to keep hitting the buzzer. Encouraged by other people no less, who kept asking me questions. Not necessarily important questions but my brain didn’t make any distinction in categories…questions were still questions…answers were answers…points were points…
And besides, all I really wanted was to hit the buzzer.